‘Paint the Town’ pairs varying artistic levels
by DELANEY WALKER, Banner Staff Writer
Dec 06, 2012 | 1744 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hidden Cleveland
OWNER AND OPERATOR Barbara Ratcliff, right, stands beside Rita Fontana Lee, a frequent customer and visitor. Lee began painting pottery on Mother’s Day 2012. Included in the picture is one of her favorite pieces. Banner photo, DELANEY WALKER
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Aspiring finger painters brush elbows with accomplished artists at Cleveland’s Paint the Town, where good times and ready-made pottery abound.

Doors opened on March 17, 2011. The idea was simple: customers choose a piece of pottery and spend hour upon hour painting their piece. The idea is still simple, and the ‘hour upon hour’ is optional.

Owner and operator Barbara Ratcliff describes the activity as good, family fun.

“The whole family can do this. We have little, tiny newborns and 90-year-olds. It is just fun for all ages,” Ratcliff said.

Walls are lined with pottery at the small shop off Keith Street. Mugs, platters, ornaments, plates, and cookie jars sit patiently on shelves to be painted. Soft music plays in the background.

Customers referred to painting pottery as cheap therapy.

“I can sit for hours and focus on painting. It is very relaxing with the soft music playing,” said Rita Fontana Lee, a repeat customer. “The owners are just fabulous. They are very welcoming.”

Ratcliff’s daughter and sister often help around the shop.

“She [daughter] calls it mine, but I see it as theirs too. She and my son-in-law do whatever is needed around here,” Ratcliff said. “My daughter usually takes the late-night hours, like for a girls’ night, because I am more of an early bird. It works out.”

Fun activities offered through Paint the Town were designed with every age in mind. Girls Night Out gathers women of all ages together for a night of laughter and pottery painting. School-age children are catered to through several options: birthday parties, art-to-go for art teachers, classroom visits, and field trips.

Children and parents alike benefit from Date Night.

“For $30 the child gets $20 worth of pottery, pizza and a soft drink. It is sort of a party atmosphere. It is well worth the $30 for parents to have four hours to themselves,” Ratcliff said.

More information can be found by visiting the shop or calling 423-618-0976. The shop is opened four days a week. The other three days are needed by Barbara for a little rest and relaxation alongside cleanup, she said.

Regular prices of pottery pieces are found on the pottery written in pencil. The only cost associated with a visit to Paint the Town is the pottery’s price. Additional visits to work on the same piece, paint, and use studio pieces are free of charge. Also free is the subsequent glazing and firing of the completed pieces. There are no studio costs.

Unfinished pieces cannot be stored at Paint the Town. Ratcliff assured the pieces could be brought back for more hours of painting fun. Some customers take over 20 hours to finish their pieces. Lee said she once spent 27 hours on a platter.

Friends often meet to paint pottery and catch up on life.

“My daughter had my 10-year-old grandson’s party here and I thought, ‘Boys painting pottery?’ Everyone loved it and I think everyone came back,” said Mitzi Parker, repeat customer. “I thought it would just be fun to meet up with friends to paint.”

Parker routinely gets together with her old friends, Nancy Albritton and Patsy Poe, over lunch. They all met while working for M&M Mars. The three often end up at Paint the Town after their lunches.

“When we started coming it was close to the gift-giving season. I thought, these would make great Christmas gifts,” Parker said.

Added Albritton, “I think it is fun. You have something fun to show for your time.”

The three are old hands at craft projects, according to Parker. The two have conquered cross stitching and crocheting together.

“We have done lots of different things together over the years, but this is our latest. And it is fun,” Albritton said.

Lee and her sister, Brandi Fontana, also bond over pottery painting.

“We don’t get to meet often, but when we do we meet here,” Lee said.

Fontana said the pottery pieces make great gift ideas.

“The gifts are special because they are one-of-a-kind and you put your time into them,” Fontana said.

She said her son and daughter love it, as well.

“My 8-year-old and 9-year-old love painting pottery,” Fontana said.

Ratcliff encourages men to either join friends and family or to come out on their own.

“Most guys have fun once they come,” Ratcliff said. “The men who try it are surprised they like it.”

Completed pottery pieces are readily explained by Ratcliff. She knows who painted them, and often for whom they were painted. Paint the Town keeps her busy, but she finds it enjoyable work.

“I enjoy the people. I always say they are here because they want to be. They are spending money on something they really like,” Ratcliff said. “When you go to the grocery store, you are spending money because you have to. They are happy to be here.”